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Applying User Feedback Theory To Your Startup


A huge part of running a successful startup is continuously looking for ways to improve. Whether through upskilling, strategic opportunities, or new theories and methods – there is always scope for growth. The iceberg theory, primarily referred to as ‘User Feedback Theory’ or ‘The Customer Complaint Iceberg’ in the sales and marketing arena, encourages just that.

According to the iceberg theory, the visible portion of the iceberg provides insights collected from analytics, direct complaints, and customer reviews. And while this is all well-and-good, we unfortunately tend to forget about the feedback that lingers below the water’s surface. This feedback may pertain to underlying issues – the ones that people don’t usually bother to complain about – and helpful solutions you may not have considered.

The problem is that the visible percentage of feedback is the most accessible and does not completely represent the reality of how consumers are viewing or interacting with your startup’s offering. As research states, only 4% of unsatisfied clients voice complaints, so there is still useful perspective to be gained in the less vocal percentile. At Allied Legal, we’ve listed some beneficial ways you can apply the iceberg theory to gain a holistic understanding of the feedback ‘below the surface.’ 

Check in With Your Clients

We often only hear from our vocal minority through angry emails and loud social media complaints and forget to check in with the silent majority of our client-base, and doing so could cost you. Even minor grievances like a hard to navigate website, a particularly confusing feature, or slow response time, are problems that may – overtime – annoy your clients enough to cause them to quietly drop off and seek services or products elsewhere. By opening channels of communication, you could be learning valuable insights about your startup’s offering, lowering your startup’s churn rate. Automated emails or EDMs can be a simple way of checking in with your client-base to remind them that they are valued and have not been forgotten. Most platforms will also have sophisticated analytics you can review to observe behavioural signals such as user inactivity.

Image sourced from Medium’s Comprehending User Feedback with Iceberg Theory. 

Learn from Positive Reviews

It’s easy to take every success story as a win and stop there, but we recommend taking it even further – what can you learn from your positive feedback? Another look at your startup’s campaign or at a certain feature of your startup’s offering could help you to replicate it and do it better next time. So, don’t stop at the five-star review, dig a little deeper. What did you do right? How did your offering benefit them? And is there any room for improvement? 

Review your Systems

If you are continuously hearing the same feedback from your startup’s clients, perhaps it’s time to review the foundational aspects of your startup or the underlying patterns that underpin the ‘iceberg’. In their text It’s All Connected: A Comprehensive Guide to Global Issues and Sustainable Solutions, Wheeler and Church claim that most things can be connected to underlying values, beliefs, and mental models. By observing these systems and patterns, you will be able to understand and recognise ways to address issues and apply sustainable solutions. Analysing and reviewing the way your startup cares for your team, rewards dedication, and talent, as well as other systems like customer interaction can assist you in staying agile and potentially lead to a better offering and service experience. 

Need Help? Contact Us 

At Allied Legal, we provide holistic startup support by guiding you toward your goals and ensuring that you are legally protected as you do so. If you would like to learn more about how we can help, or if you would like to speak with one of our commercial lawyers, you can give us a call on 03 8691 3111 or send us an email at hello@alliedlegal.com.au

This article was partially adapted from Janet Choi’s The Iceberg Theory of User Feedback via Customer.IO.

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